Back to Shopping at NorthernBrewer.com

Barrel Aging

I want to barrel age a porter. If I get my hands on a bourbon barrel, I realize that I should fill it with the beer/wort within a couple of days from when the distillery. When barrel aging, do you strictly use the barrel as a secondary? Or is it possible to ferment in it as well? are there pros and cons to either?
Thanks

You can certainly use a barrel for primary fermentation, but you’ll have a large amount of trüb in the bottom and krausen is a PITA to clean from inside a barrel. Also, you will not have the ability to pull it out when it’s ready, as a smaller barrel can extract oak awfully quickly, and your batch may get over oaked before primary fermentation is complete. Much better to use it for secondary.

Best bet is to have a batch ready before you take ownership of a barrel, so it can get transferred in as soon as possible. You don’t want to let it dry out before you can add your batch. What size barrel are you getting?

1 Like

Intresting thought this maybe a idea for the upcoming kriek lambic brew session

Thanks for the reply. I am not sure of the exact size of the barrel but it will be the smallest size. I will have to verify before they give it to me so I know how much to make, because I am aware of the ratio issue. In your experience approx. how long would this need to barrel age? I know that there is a “shelf life” of the oak, so if I got too much oak flavor out of the barrel if I wait long enough that will start to disappear from the beer. But…I was thinking of sticking it in there for 6 months and then tasting it.

For the first fill of the barrel, you might only be looking at a couple weeks before it could get over-oaked. Each subsequent fill will take progressively longer, so maybe a few months the next time, and by the third fill it should be pretty neutral. Keep in mind that the smaller the barrel, the more oxygen transfer.

Also, having a barrel is a process that needs to be maintained. You never want to leave it empty, so you need to plan out your batches so that one comes out, and another goes in. It’s a good amount of work, but the results really can’t be simulated any other way.

Good luck!

Getting a used 5 gallon bourbon barrel in a couple of weeks. Brown ale going in as soon as I get, then an RIS going in after that, then starting a sour project.

So excite!!! :grinning:

Sounds awesome! You may want to read up on waxing barrels. I have a 10 gallon barrel and haven’t found it necessary, but depending on how your barrel performs, it’s an effective way to reduce oxygen transfer. Let the barrel tell you if it’s necessary, though.

Have read some on waxing. Been stalking different threads in the forums on barrel ageing and have seen it come up a few times.

PC, just a curious ?, Couldn’t you fill with water and possibly some distilled spirit if you didn’t have a brew to refill it? I understand the need to keep it wet so the staves remain tight/leakproof… Sneezles61

You could keep some spirits in there for short term to keep everything damp prior to it being filled with beer for the first time. Once beer has gone into it, you’re likely to get mold or some other infection if it sits empty. You can make a storage solution with citric acid and k-meta if your barrel is going to sit empty for awhile, although it also leaches out a lot of the flavor you get from a barrel. There’s also some risk of the sulfates affecting the next barrel fill, too.

1 Like

I was thinking that, when using a wooden barrel and with time, sometimes being limited, as to how you could keep it viable until next use. Or, I like I have, an old one I procured from and elderly person, and wonder how to bring back into a usable situation… I would assume its not feasible. Sneezles61

If you’re prepared to remove the head and possibly disassemble the whole thing, then I’d say go for it! At a minimum, you’ll want to remove the head from the barrel and give it a thorough inspection and cleaning, and depending on how old the barrel is you could even chisel off the inner layer from the staves. Take a look on YouTube, there are some good videos for how to disassemble a barrel and get it back together again!

It’ll probably leak like a sieve, but filling it with as hot of water as possible should allow it to swell and seal back up again. However, there really isn’t any way to sanitize the inside of a barrel. If you fill it with a high gravity/high IBU beer, you have a good chance of keeping an infection at bay, but it might just be better to embrace the funk with this one! Good luck, I have an old 55 gallon whiskey barrel that I’ve been meaning to do the same thing to, but just haven’t found the time yet. Should be a fun project though!

I’ll be looking then at you tube! Thank you! Sneezles61

1 Like
Back to Shopping at NorthernBrewer.com